Over my many years of troubleshooting in the electrical field, one of the first things I would do would be to interview the owner. I could glean a lot of information that could possibly shorten the repair process. “Where were you at when it happened?” “Did you do anything right before the problem occurred?” “Have you made any changes to your home?” These are a few of the types of questions I would ask.
A common scenario was that a breaker had tripped when a customer turned on a light switch. This information would help me know where to look for the problem. Usually, in this situation, I would find a problem in the related light fixtures. But, I would not have known this if I had not asked.
But what about the problem of Jesus’ claim to be God? Do we have any “homeowners” we can interview that can shed light on what happened when the life of Jesus occurred? We most certainly do. The gospels are the reliable accounts of the actual eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life. But how do we really know they are reliable? Many of the ways we know we can trust a homeowner are the same ways we can trust the gospel writers.
First, were they there? This seems to be a pretty silly question to ask a homeowner, but, if they weren’t at home when the problem occurred, then what they had to say would be of no use to us. It’s the same with the gospel writers. Were they there?
Skeptics often claim that the gospels were written centuries after the life of Jesus and the stories contained therein are exaggerated and false. But is there any truth to this? Early dating of the gospels is the easiest way to show that they were truly there. If the gospels were written immediately after the life of Jesus, then the people who wrote them were “at home” when it all happened.
There are many ways to show that the gospels were written early, but my favorite is the fact that the destruction of the temple in 70 A. D. is not mentioned in the New Testament. Why does this show early dating? Because, if it had occurred before the gospels were written, then they surely would have mentioned it. This was equivalent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Jews of that day. Their tradition and religious lives revolved around the temple. Surely they would have wrote about it’s destruction. But they didn’t. Also, Jesus predicted that this would happen. If the gospels were written after this, they would have most certainly wrote about it to show that Jesus was correct in His prediction. Yet there is no mention of it. What can we conclude? All of the New Testament was written prior to 70 A. D. The “homeowners” were definitely home.
Second, is it their home? Here we have another silly question, but if the person living there doesn’t own the home, they probably aren’t as interested in the details of what happened. Renters usually have little invested in the home they live in.
What about the gospel writers? Did they have anything invested in the claims that they were making? They most certainly did! The decision to follow Jesus and proclaim Him as God and risen Savior led to them being ostracized, persecuted, tortured, ridiculed and killed. They had invested all to the truth of Jesus. Certainly they had a sincere belief that this was true.
Finally, what did they do when the problem occurred? The actions of the homeowner often point to the cause of the problem. This is the case in the example of the switch that we mentioned earlier.
Again, what about the gospel writers? What did they do when the problem of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus occurred?
Honestly, they scattered. They gave up and went back to the lives they knew before Jesus. Peter went back to fishing.
Then Jesus came and appeared before them. All He told them was true and His resurrection verified all of it. They went back to following Jesus with a renewed vigor that never diminished until the day they died.
This is independently verified by the Roman historian Tacitus in his work “The Annals.” He wrote concerning Nero blaming the great fire in Rome on the Christians:
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”
Notice how he said “a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out.” This perfectly describes how the disciples gave up when Jesus died, then came back after His resurrection. Their radically changed lives are yet further proof of the truth of the gospels.
A few years ago, I went on a troubleshooting call at a local fuel terminal. I had recently been promoted at my job when a veteran supervisor had retired. He was an expert in fuel terminal systems which are extremely complex. Eager to prove myself, I attempted to solve the problem at the terminal on my own. After a few hours of frustration and failure to find the problem, I prayed to God for a solution and I asked my wife to pray. Right after that, the terminal manager, Kevin, began trying to help me. In the following conversations with him, I discovered that he knew the terminal like the back of his hand. He was there when the problem occurred, he was certainly invested in finding a solution, and he knew what the scenario was when the problem happened. With his knowledge and expertise, we quickly solved the problem. If I had only interviewed him at the beginning, I would have come to a solution much quicker.
Interviewing the homeowner is one of the most sure fire ways to solve an electrical problem and interviewing the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus is one of the most convincing ways to discover the truth of the New Testament.